When we think of trusts, we often look at them as tools for distributing our assets after we pass away. However, a comprehensive trust plan is not just about what happens after you die; it's also about what happens if you become incapacitated due to injury, illness, or age-related conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Understanding the importance of preparing for mental incapacity ahead of time is crucial for protecting yourself, your assets, and your loved ones.
4 Downfalls of Failing to Prepare for Mental Incapacity:
- Court-Appointed Conservatorship: Without a written plan, a court may appoint a conservator to make decisions on your behalf. This process can be lengthy, costly, and very stressful for your family. It also means that someone you wouldn't have chosen could end up controlling your assets and health care.
- Family Conflict: Without clear guidance, family members may disagree about the best course of action for your health care and assets. This can lead to disputes, strained relationships, and even legal battles, compounding emotional stress during a difficult time.
- Loss of Control: Failing to plan means you have no say in who manages your assets or makes healthcare decisions for you. Your preferences for medical treatment, living arrangements, and even asset management may not be considered.
- Financial Vulnerability: Without a designated person to manage your finances, your assets could be mismanaged or depleted, leaving less and for your care for your beneficiaries after your passing.
5 Benefits of Being Prepared for a Possible Incapacity:
- Choice & Control: A well-structured trust plan allows you to choose who will manage your financial affairs and make healthcare decisions if you're unable to do so. You can select someone you trust and specify your preferences for health care and asset management.
- Privacy and Dignity: A trust can provide for your care and manage your assets without the need for a public court proceeding. This preserves your privacy and allows you to maintain dignity during a vulnerable time.
- Speed & Efficiency: A designated trustee can quickly step in to manage your financial affairs without the delays of court supervised proceedings. This ensures that your bills are paid, your investments are properly managed, and your health care needs are met.
- Protection of Assets: A properly structured revocable trust can help protect your assets from being depleted through mismanagement or fraud. It can also help maximize the assets available for your beneficiaries after your passing through private administration that is less costly.
- Peace of Mind: Knowing that you have a plan in place can provide immense peace of mind to you and your loved ones. It assures everyone that your wishes will be respected and that the burden of making tough decisions during a crisis will be minimized.
4 Simple Steps to Creating a Comprehensive Trust Plan:
To prepare for potential incapacity, consider the four following steps:
- Select a Trustee: Choose someone you trust implicitly to manage your assets and make decisions on your behalf. This could be a family member, friend, or professional Trustee, bank, or trust company.
- Detail Your Wishes: Clearly articulate your preferences for medical treatment, living arrangements, and asset management in your trust documents.
- Regular Reviews: Update your trust as your life circumstances and relationships change to ensure that it always reflects your current wishes.
- Legal Guidance: Work with an experienced, qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that your trust is legally sound, up to date and effectively structured to meet your needs.
Trust plans are about much more than just distributing your assets after you die; they're about ensuring that you're taken care of during your lifetime, especially if you face an incapacity event. By preparing for this possibility ahead of time, you can maintain control over your life, protect your assets, and provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones. Don't wait until it's too late; start planning now to secure your future no matter what it holds.
If you, a friend, or family member need help establishing or restating an estate plan, please reach out to our Intake Department at 760-448-2220 or at https://www.geigerlawoffice.com/contact.cfm. We have offices in San Diego (Carlsbad) and Orange Counties (Laguna Niguel), but we can assist families throughout California as well.
Brenda Geiger is the CEO and Managing Attorney of Geiger Law Office, P.C. and has been working as a trusts and estates attorney for over 20 years. She opened Geiger Law Office, P.C. in 2007 and has helped over 4,000 families create estate plans to protect their loved ones. Brenda has authored several books on Trusts, Elder Law and Business Law topics and is an active member of theh North County San Diego Bar Association and the North County Estate Planning Counsel. Brenda attended the University of San Diego for both undergrad and law school. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children traveling and watching soccer.